Both Howard Eskin and Tim McManus are reporting that Stewart Bradley is close to signing with the Arizona Cardinals. The Eagles haven't seemed to show any interest in bringing back Bradley, so the fact he's leaving shouldn't be a surprise. Bradley really has been a good player and looked like he could finally be that standout LB that the Eagles actually developed... but his propensity for getting injured has been incredibly frustrating. He missed all of 2009 with a major knee injury (the Flight Night debacle) and the last four games of last year with an elbow injury. He also picked up a concussion.
It's kind of a bummer because Stew is a great guy and has talent. For all we know, he could stay healthy and be very productive, but it's just so difficult to project. Typically though, players don't often get healthier as they age.
The issue that this brings up though, is if Stewart Bradley will not be the starting MIKE, who will? The first and most obvious choice would be Jamar Chaney, who filled in superbly last year. However, Juan Castillo seems to have other plans. Chaney has been moved to the outside and rookie Casey Matthews has been installed as the starter at MIKE.
"The thing about it is that he’s a football player. He’s smart, and he has that ‘it.’" Castillo said of Matthews, "We feel at MLB, we want a guy who can get everybody lined up, and be a leader. Naturally, I think through the others who have been questioned before they proved themselves, but it’s a good bloodline. He’s grown up being a leader."
More on Matthews from Castillo after the jump.
Juan says that Casey has been picking up things quick.
We’ve put in quite a bit of defense already and he’s been the one who’s been calling the shots yesterday. We signal the fronts and the coverages in practice, and he’s a pretty smart guy. When we put on the pads, we’ll improve the fundamentals. I think what you need to understand is that on defense, we’re teachers. Every day, we’re going to better at certain things. Every coach has what we call a ‘daily must’, something that they’re going to work on every day and they’re going to improve. It’s not like when we put on the pads, everybody is going to look the way they will when the season opens. Every day we’re going to get a little bit better and take it one practice at a time. That’s what Coach Reid preaches and you’re used to hearing him say that, and that’s what we’re going to do on defense."
But can you trust a rookie to lead the defense?
"When you look at that, he’s the one calling the plays. He’s the one that’s given that. He has to be a leader in the huddle, a presence in the huddle. Once they break the huddle, Asante Samuel and [DE] Trent Cole are our leaders. Everybody knows those are our guys. In the huddle, he’s the guy who controls that. He’s the one who is going to make sure everyone gets the call. When the huddle breaks, he’s going to make sure everybody gets lined up. Asante Samuel, Trent Cole, those are our leaders and the guys who’ve proven themselves over the years."
I think Casey Matthews could be a fine player in this league, but I'm worried that too many people are focusing on the name on the back of his jersey. There's a reason this kid fell to the fourth round. He was not a top LB prospect. He still has to get stronger and he's never going to be that big. Instincts and smarts are important, but they can only take you so far.
I don't think we can assume that the Eagles plan is to leave Matthews at MIKE and move on. Chances are we won't know what the plan is for another few weeks. There's still LBs on the market and other options possible. One guy that doesn't appear to be on their radar is LB Steven Tulloch, who Ruben Franks says the Eagles have no interest in.